Winners of the 2012 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals being awarded Thursday include researchers battling AIDS and bone marrow disease, a DEA agent who helped convict a notorious arms trafficker, and officials helping combat amputees and fighting veterans’ homelessness.

The “Sammies,” as they are informally known, are considered among the most prestigious awards for U.S. civil servants.

“In this political season, we see people again and again tearing down our government,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which sponsors the awards. “We will never get what we want out of our government if we focus solely on its shortcomings and fail to celebrate its successes.”

James Cash/ Career Achievement (Sam Kittner)

Cash said he was humbled by his choice, but added that the awards are useful reminders of the work being done by federal workers, “especially in these times, when everybody’s fed bashing, from presidential candidates on down.”

Stier said the medals take on additional meaning in the wake of the killings of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya on Tuesday. “This is a reminder that our civil service puts itself in harm’s way,” he said.

“You look at Jim Cash and Chris Stevens, and these are amazing people, and the American people, by and large, don’t know their stories,” Stier added.

Lynne Mofenson/ Employee of the Year ((Sam Kittner))

Jake Taylor/ Call to Service Medal (Sam Kittner)

Susan Angell and Mark Johnston/ Citizen Services Medal (Sam Kittner)

Chuck Scoville/National Security and International Affairs Medal (Sam Kittner )

Lou Milione/Justice and Law Enforcement Medal (Sam Kittner)

Elliott Branch/Management Excellence Medal (Sam Kittner)

Dr. Neal Young/Science and Environmental Medal (Sam Kittner)

Neal Young, chief of the hermatology branch at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health was honored with the Science and Environment Medal for ground-breaking research and treatments for patients with bone marrow failure diseases, including the rare and once deadly blood disorder known as aplastic anemia.

Nael Samha and Thomas Roland/ Homeland Security Medal (Sam Kittner )

The medals are named in honor of Samuel J. Heyman, who founded the partnership in the hopes of revitalizing federal government service.

This year’s winners were selected from a list of more than 400 nominees by a committee including representatives from the government, academia, and the private sector. Nominations for the 2013 awards are being accepted at www.servicetoamericamedals.org

The winners and finalists are to be honored at a gala Thursday evening in Washington.